Saturday, January 8, 2011

Saturday commute xi

When one thinks of all the Royal Navy has en-dured, in its endless volleys of the sun to as-sure that it never sets beneath Greenwich's badminton net, the Falk-lands campaign still takes one's breath away for its digression in latitude, when in the same longitude there remained, after all, Canada, flouting empire. 

And so it was, that in 1982 the flimsiest flotilla ever floated from the floorboards of a Gilbert & Sullivan farce was requisitioned by Her Majesty's flanneled clubmen of Whitehall, to sail to Argentina and serve suit for repatriation of some islands none of them had ever known. Yet who is to say where the commute of imperial repossession might lead next, with such a precedent? Could there be hope for Virginia?

But this got nasty. There would be VC's, there would be inquiries, there would be no excuses.

Except at White's.

In an age when the im-portance of man manage-ment loomed large in British society, British warships were built to very high standards of comfort... But the cost of increased comfort was reduced armament.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Allegro grazioso
  Rondo in D, K. 382
Alfred Brendel
Sir Neville Marriner
Academy of St Martin in the Fields
Philips, 1976©

Max Hastings
Simon Jenkins
The Battle for the Falklands
Norton, 1983©

Friday, January 7, 2011

Capriole for a Greek

rosé with sautées

Cabriolet for a tenor

Now it has this density of aubergine, with the same perfected black for the bonnet and boot.

The more for keeping. Nobody yields anymore.

There is a time for woodwinds -

sage, madrone,
eucalyptus and oak

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Have we discussed frogs legs at the Blue Fox?

In blogging there seems to be a readership-writership tendency toward sybaritic indulgence which, I fear, is better embarrassed by confession in one's case than by jeremiads against the grain. It sometimes seems, we could bring the commodities markets to a standstill by simply suspending our blogs for a day. But a good dog needs his fibres and anti-oxidants, and we our frogs legs at the Blue Fox.
Now, my learned confrères and bright sisters will observe, the Blue Fox is defunct. And so it, sadly, is. But no joy is more estimable than one which cannot be verified. This one wears the contrarian style of une bêtise.
I knew the BF in the day of Piero Fassio, the Henri Soulé of the Barbary Coast. Whatever else there was to say for the place, the riches of its cellar should certainly have attracted an anti-trust prosecution and, more to the point, demand from the Fed to distribute its holdings to diversify an unthinkable earthquake risk. Now, of course, the world of fine wine has China, if one does not have that backwards, and diligent groupies from Marin County for the Cabs of Howell Mountain. No wonder there's a vogue for Scotch today - a renewable port in the storm.
Sr Fassio was nothing if not solicitous of his following's taste. He created the restaurant in the year of one's birth, give or take a month, and yet to anyone entering the place, I'm sure the sense was instantaneous of its having been anticipating him, all along. If you blog, you know what I mean.

But now, back to the dim-inutive amphibian and his delectable extremities. They are what they are, you like them or you don't. They come from China now, being banned in the EU; yet probably some enterprising farm lurks in Michael Vick's portfolio, beneath some gauzy holding company. But France is their home.

Surely no delectation can be more poignantly focus-ed than by thrusting it into cognitive combina-tion with another. It is precisely on the basis of such an ungentlemanly juxtaposition that this blog can even consider the matter of restaur-ants. And this was the scandal of the evening once, at the Blue Fox:

one ordered the most glorious Sauternes on the planet, with a service of cuisses de grenouille provençale. Never mind, that this was a celebration of the wine's balletic acidity, more than an indulgence of its renowned residual sugar. Never mind, that all the pairing truly fails is tradition. Never mind, that the thing went off without a hitch, the salinity of the preparation and the plushness of the fruit a classic mutual bond in any other context. It was simply that Yquem, when poured at all, must keep to its class, foie gras, the melt-ingest effluent of pomp. I'd do it again.


We'll be back to this subject,
as the masthead has always
threatened. This entry is a
reply to a friend's inquiry
of how to handle a wine he
was contemplating for his
birthday. The answer is, by
its chemistry, not its name.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

One degree of latitude divides San Francisco

from Charlottesville, Virginia

This beach will remain empty
for more slate-coloured dawns
of lines the surf continually
erases with its sponge,

and someone else will come
from the still-sleeping house,
a coffee-mug warming his palm
as my body once cupped yours,

to memorise this passage
of a salt-sipping tern,
like when some line on a page
is loved, and it's hard to turn.

Derek Walcott
To Norline
  The Arkansas Testament
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1987©

Les contours du silence

Garrett Neff

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Foraging, I sometimes pause

As Homer more than anticipated, sometimes the chronicle of mortal destruction, brooking no reluctance, encounters a caesura as the thread is milled from the mind, and we know this pause within his original acoustic, or on the apostolic page, as an experience of texture. We have recalled his efficiency, of going in above the clavicle, without addressing his dialogues at spear's point. Intimate, implacably more moving than the lamentations which pile up in their wake, they are macro-photographs of acute cognition of depth, the greatest burden recital has ever had to bear. 


Fanny, Les contours du silence

Monday, January 3, 2011

You remember, I think, Harold Abrahams?

Well, there's your Semite, Hugh.

John Gielgud's summary line on the treachery of private coaching, as Master of Caius in Chari-ots of Fire, comes to mind as we commence our winter training on debauches of December. Some of us have not been playing fair, and we have proof. Some of us have been hauling columns on our back, knitting sleeker armstrands into pads of peachy prominence. Some of us did neckbridges instead of closing bars, or simply held the secret of a timelier escape. How uncollegial.

Of all the precious phrases we reserve for the winner of games, that he cares too much is probably the sweetest. Just when we thought collegiality might turn on commitment, we were handed this solution to the prestige of defeat. Yes; and isn't it all, in the end, so unattractive to exhibit one's ability, instead of harbouring its wealth in club chairs in the corner, unspokenly cementing lifetime bonds? It's the nature of true wit, after all, the difference between carrying Wittgen-stein to the coffee house, and opening him up. Somebody draws a First in Philosophy, and recognition is his punishment.

But I stray. The tradesman's son stands out for the perfection of his kit, the somewhat glossy shine upon it all, an almost continental way of saying, he is not our kind. It's a wonder you can get a cox to steer a boat with him, correcting for the power of his stroke. There's one in every eight, you know. Or, near enough.

.. Whichever saint calls out

of an awning is ours to succor and molest, else
why harp on the differences between us? Why castigate
what divides or loll on the boundary
that was almost always there?

John Ashbery
  A Worldly Country
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2007©

There is another Caldicott and Charters

I know. It's a little as if one had heard there'd been another holiday declared, smack in the middle of the longest month in the Northern Hemisphere. Buds would break, breeches'd tumble, and all the midges of summer would slumber on. And so they might, for 90 minutes, give or take an anti-climactic line of credits.

For lads to whom the sound of music is the thwack of a bat, the news is not untimely that the conspicuously chaste cricket chums of The Lady Vanishes were brought forth again, less than a year later, in Night Train to Munich by Carol Reed. Their biographers are the same, Sidney Gilliat and Frank Launder; Margaret Lockwood is back, and Michael Redgrave has gone up a register in Rex Harrison. Hitchcock's looming portents have given way to social comedy, of stratified nuance and slender suspense, even as the speculations of 1938 have ripened into the clarity of 1939.

Yet just when you'd think, Reed's strains of certain war might have sorted out the shared pyjamas of Hitchcock's Mandrika, Reed's boys double down on diffidence for as long as a test match might possibly be attended, despite wartime travel annoyances. But of course hell hath no fury greater than a fan finally barred from his sport, as the two films make clear. It's then that our sleepingly droll and ditzy patriots emerge as Harry's hellions at Honfleur, to hand the arrogant villain a well-timed shot or two of his own medicine. All of England is on fire, and every laughingstock shall do his propagandistic duty.

For, all this time, the menace of "conflict" has been depicted in its most horrid light, as a case of coitus interruptus out of Keats. Margaret Lockwood's character's mistaken-beau problem is given the most sympathetic airing in both films, while C and Ch are reserved as currants of mirth in a British trifle. The day will come when everyone will see through that, but it's not yet here; and, ever loathe to ask for permission for treats we know is forthcoming, we take them before they cool. Besides, these hotties deserve to get to their match, and a couple of raffish reels of cinema seem the shortest route.
To compare: Hitchcock's is the zingier lifter of shirts; but Reed and these writers had a slighter original text, and crafted a charming result. Lockwood is terrific, in both, and Harrison is sexy and subtle in three different rôles as a spy. How he could wear clothes. Re-call Reed's work with Graham Greene and Sir Ralph Richardson in The Fallen Idol, and with Welles in The Third Man - and that Lean was his understudy. Queue it.
Meanwhile, can you stand it: countless epiphanies after David and Jonathan, we still delight in the Amos 'n' Andy of valour in funny, little amateurs in every sense of the word. Yet Caldicott and Charters are able, in Ford Madox Ford's perfect phrase, to stand up in films from England which stood outside the American imagination.

Alfred Hitchcock
The Lady Vanishes
Gaumont, 1938©
Criterion Collection©

Carol Reed
Night Train to Munich
Gaumont, 1939©
Criterion Collection ©

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sport vest

heaven help us!

and we still haven't
said a word about
restaurants ..

Mat Gordon

The bowshot speech


.. Mariner.. I need not
give you orders, knowing as I do
that you are well disposed to all I plan.
Your thought is like my own.
Come, then; in time we'll make amends for this,
if anything uncalled for has been said:
God send the seawinds blow it out of mind!
     Agamemnon to Odysseus, iv, 430 et seq. 

One extremely seldom intervenes in these entries with editorial remark, but the occasion of citing Homer must always be one which engages profound attachments to a translation. The reader is spared any impression here, that one's judgment would be offered to sway another's; but at the same time, he is entitled to a justification of the choice. By the text, that case has already been made; but it was made also by Robert Fagles, possibly the most celebrated of recent translations. There is, however, the translation of this poem into English, but that one is in the distinguishable category of having already been acquired, read, assimilated and revisited for more than 250 years as possibly the benignest account of one mind ever given by another. When we are not citing Alexander Pope, we are venturing into raw hope that the excursion of our taste will be guided well. Neither Fagles nor Fitzgerald fails that hope, and it is possible to alternate between them with serious and delightful enrichment of pleasure.

Agamemnon's speech is not cited to rebuke the father. When Fitzgerald hears, "your thought is like my own," he has Homer's sense of a devotion already deeply formed, which Pope captures as, "With ours, thy care and ardour are the same." This horror - love, as the wellspring of Agamemnon's subject - is maturer in Fitzgerald than anyone else. All translations capture Agamemnon's apology but only the Fitzgerald finds its anxiety. This is simply correct, and basic to the Iliad Project.

For many people, this day is an occasion of epiphany, with which it would be unconscionable to interfere. But, not by coincidence, it is also the anniversary of the departure of the shepherds. All now look to each other; if anything uncalled for has been said: God send the seawinds blow it out of mind! 

Rodrigo Calazans (r)
Lt, La Jolla, 1944
Lt, USS Goldsborough, 1967
Carlo Scarpa, Querini Stampalia
Thibault Oberlin, numismatic profile
Shepherd, anonymous

The Iliad
Robert Fitzgerald, translation
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 1974©

Hector Berlioz
L'adieu des bergers, 1850
  L'enfance du Christ
Matthew Best
Corydon Singers
Hyperion, 2001©